As reported by the New Haven Register, July 25, 2011.

'Like an Oversized Cradle:' Woman Sails to Fight Cancer

By Sandi Kahn Shelton

WESTBROOK — Rose Gerber of East Lyme is an eight-year breast cancer survivor, and she says she’s been through every conceivable treatment there is for her disease.

Several years ago, though, she took part in an ongoing study that was different from all the others. She went to Brewer Pilots Point Marina and spent an hour on a sailboat while it was in the slip. She went down into the front berth and rested, experiencing silence and the wave motion of the boat. She didn’t have to talk, she didn’t have to worry about her family or little children, or about pain and fear.

She just rested.

“It was like an oversized cradle,” she says. “I’ve never been a boat person, and I’d never heard of wave therapy, but I wanted to open my mind to it, and so I went. It really lifted my spirits. It put me in such a state of deep relaxation.”

Gerber is just one of several Connecticut women who have stage 2 or 3 breast cancer who are taking part in the study, sponsored by the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Carline Lutynski of Norwich, a principal investigator of the study, has so far had 12 women participate in the study, but she also provides sessions of therapeutic relaxation on the boat for women who have any stage breast cancer.

“What we’re finding is that the women love the wave motion. We believe that wave is both motion and brings about powerful early memory of a stress-free time. It can be used to replace recent stressful moments,” says Lutynski, who is a breast cancer survivor herself.

Joy Sherman of New Haven is captain of the 35-foot Pearson sailboat, the Hado, which is being employed for the study and for the therapy. She’s volunteering her time, as well as her charter boat, to help the women.

“I am just amazed,” she says. “When the women come out, they look relaxed and refreshed. They’ve been in a place of safety and healing. How powerful it is for them to be quiet for an hour and to just be rocked.”

“Even an hour makes such a difference,” agrees Lutynski. “Remember that these are women who are most likely taking care of everybody else around them. They’ve been given this diagnosis, and they still have to keep their lives running and make sure their families are OK. They’re holding onto a lot of stress.”

When a woman arrives for the treatment, she is helped down to the berth and then settled in among pillows and an egg-crate mattress. A nurse stays with her during the hour and can get her anything she needs. Some of the women, Lutynski says, fall asleep, while some just like to stare at the ceiling and think or cry. Afterward, they come out and have a light snack before they leave.

This type of wave therapy isn’t just being used for breast cancer patients under stress, she says. There have also been studies with premature babies and with people who have stuttering issues. Some researchers speculate that the wave motion mimics life in the womb, a time of complete stress-free living.

“It’s such a strong cell memory that it can interrupt stressful feelings,” says Lutynski.

Sherman says that she has always believed that water can be a powerful healer. She runs a business called Joyride Charters, www.joyridecharters.com, taking people out on sailing trips. She even has a yoga practice on the sailboat.

For the breast cancer patients in the study, the boat remains at the dock. Federal guidelines specify that anyone participating in a study must be able to stop the study at any point, and that wouldn’t be possible if the boat were out on the water.

So far, though, no one has wanted to stop the experience, says Lutynski. And no one has gotten seasick, either, although she invites them to bring over-the-counter medications if they worry about it.

Lutynski is still seeking women who might qualify to be in the study. Participation is free, as are the relaxation therapy sessions that Lutynski and Sherman offer on the boat, thanks to a grant from the Charter Oak Credit Union Foundation.

There are several dates for relaxation sessions, and they are open to breast cancer patients who would like to participate. The next session takes place from 3-4 p.m. Tuesday at the Westbrook Marina. To attend or for more information, call 860-889-3424. Additional sessions are scheduled for Aug. 11, 23, and Sept. 13.

“We call it Precious Passage,” says Lutynski. “Because it’s truly the breast cancer journey from safe seas to safe harbor.”